Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tavares: What It Means For Kyle

Now that the entry draft is complete it is time to assess the results. John Tavares, the consensus #1 pick and fan's choice, will be doing his introductory press conference on Long Island soon and will certainly be a part of the 2009-2010 Islanders.

Since we try to focus on the namesake of this blog, we've been thinking about how the selection of Tavares will impact Kyle. And we think it's going to be overwhelmingly positive.

First off, while nobody can say if Tavares and Okposo will play on the same line next season, one would have to imagine that they would eventually be paired somewhere down the line. And if that happens, the combination of a pure goal scorer who goes to the net (Tavares) teamed with a power forward who is strong in the corners might be deadly to opposing defenses. For as long as we've seen Kyle, he has always played a physical style along the boards and down low, with the speed to capture loose pucks. His speed and physicality allowed him to rack up healthy assist numbers each season. With a center such as Tavares, it's as if the two were born to be teammates. As much as Kyle will create scoring chances for John, the opposite is also true. Tavares has a penchant for being on the puck quickly, and when he isn't crashing the crease he'll be looking for someone to dish to for the scoring chance, and a lot of time it will be Okposo.

A second benefit of Tavares' presence will be felt as soon as next week, when John supplants Kyle as the young "face of the franchise." While it will be interesting to see how Tavares handles the intense scrutiny a #1 overall pick receives, it will be just as important to see how Kyle performs with the spotlight focused in another direction. Let's remember that this is still the New York media they're dealing with. With the pressure off, we wonder if Kyle might be able to relax and excel instead of trying to get comfortable, as he did early last season. When Kyle adjusted to New York and the NHL, his scoring numbers clearly picked up.

What remains to be seen in this equation is how much of a leadership role Kyle will assume in the future. We opened the debate last month on the subject of Kyle becoming an alternate captain. Fan feedback was split 50-50 in favor of that idea. So that talk may be premature. There are still many questions to be answered by management about player personnel right now.

Like we said, this isn't a debate for a few months from now; more likely one for (hopefully) a few years. Kyle will most likely be paired with Josh Bailey; Tavares with Weight or another veteran. But it's nice to know that the possibility exists, and as far as we can tell it will be a partnership that will work.

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